Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, June 17 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Such a Fun Age cover art

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid; narrated by Nicole Lewis
Penguin Audio / G.P. Putnam’s Sons 
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
ISBN: 978-0593294611

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, June 17 Edition

Get Ready for ALA Annual with YA set in New Orleans

When I get ready for a trip, I often look to literature to get me in the mood to journey to a new locale. For those of you heading to ALA in New Orleans in June, there are several young adult novels that you might want to read before your travels to get a little taste of New Orleans.

Continue reading Get Ready for ALA Annual with YA set in New Orleans

Vidcon Special: Youtuber and YA Book Crossovers

While librarians will be arriving in droves in Orlando for the 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference in the next few days, across the continent in Anaheim, another theme-parked arena, flocks of digital content fans and creators will be swarming for the 7th annual Vidcon, June 23-25, and many of these attendees will be teens. Studies are showing that a majority of teens are big consumers of online video. Short Vines are grabbing interest, but Youtube is still where a lot of time is being spent watching favorite Youtubers,  and for some of the Youtube stars, the fandoms run deep. Youtuber-YA Crossover-2

In honor of Vidcon, here are a handful of Youtubers with huge fan bases that have recently published books, and some YA book suggestion crossovers that might have some of the same appeals and feels.

tyler oakleyBinge by Tyler Oakley

Tyler Oakley – 8+ million subscribers

Book – Binge

Oakley began making videos in 2007, and is a leading youth voice for LGBTQ+ rights and teen suicide prevention.  Binge can be laugh out loud funny and turn around and be deeply heartfelt and inspiring.  Aside from his Youtube channel, he also has a podcast: Psychobabble Tyler Oakley.

simon        9780525428848_HoldMeCloser_BOM_CV.indd         Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens by Becky Albertalli (2016 Morris Award Winner, 2016 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Character-driven, heartfelt, and authentic, this will appeal to Oakley fans with both its humor and feels. Not-so-openly-gay Simon Spier is falling in love with an online friend whose identity he is uncertain of, but is pretty sure that he goes to his school. When a classmate uncovers his secret relationship, he blackmails Simon into helping him try to win over one of Simon’s best friends. Simon fears of being outed are less about being ostracized, and more about what will change once everyone knows. Though on one side this is a light-hearted and romantic novel it also deals with the difficulty of change, complexity of identity, and the importance of growth

Hold Me Closer: the Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Written in play format, the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper is telling his life story as a musical.  A hopeless romantic with a witty take on life, Tiny hits the issues head-on. Both Tiny and Oakley serve as positive role models and cheerleaders, each with a charming sense of humor. Tiny also has real depth in his autobiographical play that Oakley fans will resonate with as he looks at the sober side of the nature of love.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

This book parallels Binges as a  book of self discovery, and of finding and managing the Diva within. Equally filled with hysterical hijinks, Better Nate is the story of a small town 8th-grade boy running away to New York City to follow his dreams of being on Broadway in a musical production of E.T. As Nate gradually falls in love with the city, issues bubble up around sexuality, family, and of who you are, and can be, in the world. Continue reading Vidcon Special: Youtuber and YA Book Crossovers

2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #17

Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23 (that’s still a solid month of reading and listening time), so sign up now!

the hub 2016 reading challengeI’m currently on an audiobook kick. I just finished Randall Munroe’s What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, read to great effect by Wil Wheaton, and I’m partway through Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams, in which January LaVoy creates a stunning auditory landscape with approximately one million different character voices. What If? frequently had me laughing out loud (on the treadmill, so I was that person in the gym). Randall Munroe is probably most famous for his (beloved) xkcd webcomic, so I was expecting to laugh, and Wheaton’s energetic narration was a lot of fun. For me, it took awhile to get through simply because the content felt more digestible in small-ish doses; I personally wouldn’t have wanted to listen to so many thought experiments for hours on end (for instance, on a road trip), but taken in twenty minute chunks I found them completely delightful. I don’t listen to a ton of audiobooks normally (my listening time tends to go to podcasts and radio), but I love to be read to (file under: things we carry with us from childhood; thanks Dad!), so I’ve been really enjoying the change of format.

Continue reading 2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #17

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Noelle Stevenson

Can you have a black Walter White or a female Lex Luthor without making an uncomfortable political statement? Can you have a epic, doomed gay love story like Titanic where you’re not just playing into the tired “tragic gays” trope? Can the character lose a fight dramatically and it not be seen as them being inherently less competent or valuable?

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

In the grand scheme of things I’m a relatively new member of the fan club.  Other than sort of intermittently following Looking for Group, I wasn’t clued in to the wonders of web comics until a friend linked me to a random (and perfect) comment about Sky High, which lead to me poking around on tumblr and finding this and this and this.  And this.  I joined immediately, for the pop cultural references, social commentary, comics and, of course, Nimona.  You probably should too, if you haven’t already.  The intermittent Scooby-Doo commentary alone is worth it.

And now here we are, a couple of years later, and Nimona is a real book that I can give to So Many People this holiday season (who are hopefully not reading this intro where I just spoiled their gift) and Noelle Stevenson has won a couple Eisners and been short-listed for the National Book Award (the first ever web comic to be nominated.) Nimona and Lumberjanes have already starting popping up on multiple end-of the year Best lists, including nominations for YALSA’s 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Quick Picks, and Popular Paperbacks honors.  Not to mention her work on Wander Over Yonder, Runaways (!!!), and in various anthologies (teenage Wonder Woman! Goddess of Thunder!)  In other words, if you haven’t had the pleasure, do yourself a favor.  Seriously.  I dare you to read the interview below or to check out any of Noelle’s work and not go full fangirl or fanguy immediately.  It’s impossible.  

Thank you, Noelle, for your Twitter feed, for making me cry when Nimona [redacted], for your generosity and vulnerability below and on tumblr.  Being a confused woolly little person wandering around making bad weird choices is a lot more fun when you have Nimona and April (and Ballister and Mal and Ripley and…) to keep you company. 

Always Something There to Remind Me

noelleauthorphoto, credit Leslie RannePlease describe your teenage self.

I was homeschooled for half of being a teenager and in public high school/college for the rest! It meant that I went from being THE COOLEST homeschooler to being this weirdly overconfident drama club kid who carried a lunchbox, was the only girl in school with short hair, and wore skirts over pants. I was a very try-hard teen who somehow didn’t really care what people thought of me, in practice. I made arm warmers out of socks and had no idea how to apply liquid eyeliner.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an artist, then I wanted to be a singer. Then I wanted to be an artist again. Then I wanted to be an actress and an artist at the same time. Then I wanted to be an actress, and artist and a writer. Eventually I dropped the actress part. For a short time I wanted to be an architect but then my mom told me it involved math and I changed my mind.

What were your high school years like? 

Like I said, I was homeschooled until I was 15, so I was pretty self-directed. I didn’t have a terrible time in high school as much as just being kind of…apathetic about it. It felt like a waste of time, so I made connections with the librarians and the art teacher and the drama club and I’d use those to get out of class all the time and go do my own thing. I cut class kind of a lot, actually. I felt a little like a ghost at public high school, but not in a bad way — it was kind of by design. I knew I’d only be there for two years and I had all these other plans. In the end, I’m really glad I did go to that school, because my art teacher was amazing. She was very overworked and basically taught 2-3 classes simultaneously, like literally at the same time in the same room, but she fought really hard to keep the IB Art track when the school was trying to slash it even when there were only 3 of us. She had the art school recruiters come visit the class and that’s pretty much how I figured out how to get to art school. She was really important in my life. I called her ‘Mom’ once, in front of my actual mom.

What were some of your passions during that time? 

I loved theater. We went to a ton of plays — my favorite ones were at the local university black box, but we went to ones at the bigger playhouses too sometimes. I was really into Sweeney Todd (the movie) at the time so we bought tickets to Sweeney Todd (the play) when it came to town. That one was a big deal! I loved movies in general, going to movies was probably my favorite thing to do. We had friends at the local art house movie theater too so we’d go there because they’d let us in for free. Maybe I was a pretentious teen?? I don’t remember being pretentious but I probably was. I loved reading and I’d hang out at the Barnes & Noble across the street from my school all the time — I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, or I’d just admire the illustrations in the kids’ picture books. I’d even take my friends there and do like, dramatic readings, and pretend to be an art critic while looking at all the book covers. I really, really wanted to have written the books on the shelves there. That store was the first place I went when I was home to see my books on display. It felt pretty good.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

I was a really introverted kid, and a pretty cautious one. I was afraid of everything. I loved routine and I loved being safe and comfortable — I was a major homebody. I’d probably still be that person if I didn’t have the family I did. My family was really extroverted and adventurous, for the most part. We traveled a lot and I was always miserable. I was incapable of enjoying the awesome places we visited until much later. Then one time we were hiking in a rainforest in Guatemala and my parents decided to take us ziplining?? I swear I remember our guide having a wooden leg although I have no idea if that’s true or I made that up. Anyway, I was definitely NOT down for this. We had to climb waaaaay up in these skinny trees and onto these really rickety platforms, and THEN you had to stand on a box to make the jump. And I was like, no. My family was always pressuring me into doing stuff like this to me and I was never down for it. They got me up on the box somehow and I looked and there was NO way I was jumping. Not a chance. And I never would’ve jumped, seriously, except suddenly my mom just straight-up pushed me off the platform. Like she just threw me out of a tree. And I was fine! And I was ziplining! And I had a lot of fun!! As I grew up I stopped thinking that everything was going to kill me and I started thinking more like, well, I could die, but I probably won’t, so I might as well give it a try. It’s weird, but it’s the only way I am where I am now. Sometimes you have to just take a risk and jump. Or else your mom will throw you out of a tree. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Noelle Stevenson

Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Booklist

November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember those who have been killed because of their gender identity or expression. While there are not yet many children’s and young adult books featuring transgender characters, here are a few books that can be used in a display or program.

I Am JazzPicture books are a great way for a person to engage briefly with an idea, and most are written for children, so the language is accessible to a wide variety of people.

  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This story of a blue crayon who is mistakenly labeled “red” is a great way to introduce young children to a character who doesn’t fit the label s/he’s been given.
  • I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. This is the picture-book biography of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen who publicly came out when she was still in kindergarten.
  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. This story of a boy who enjoys sparkly, pink things is another way to introduce the idea of being gender-nonconforming in an accessible format.
  • Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr. This picture book is the story of Hope, a fictional character who was born Nick and comes to the realization that she is, in fact, a girl.
  • Rough, Tough Charley by Verla Kay. This is an account of Charley Parkhurst, a California stagecoach driver who was discovered, upon death, to be a woman who had been living life as a man.

beyond-magentaNonfiction books can provide information, especially when readers are reluctant to search online in fear that someone may see what they’ve been searching for.

  • Transparent by Cris Beam. Beam profiles four transgender teens at a school for transgender students in Los Angeles. This narrative nonfiction has been described as carefully written and sensitive to a sensitive topic.
  • Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Arin tells the story of his transition and life as a trans teen in this autobiography.
  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. Katie, who at one time was dating Arin, tells her side of the story in her transition as a transfeminine teen.
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2015 Stonewall Honor Book). This collection of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-noncomforming teens is another easily accessible way for those who are not familiar with the concept of being transgender to take a brief walk in another person’s shoes.
  • My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Hands-down this was the most recommended book when I asked those in the trans* community to identify books that would be helpful to teens and those who work with teens.
  • Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. While this book doesn’t focus singly on issues affecting the transgender community, it is true that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide than their cisgender counterparts. This book is a list of suicide alternatives, some silly and some serious.

Continue reading Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Booklist

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Libba Bray

1. Do not give up piano lessons to play basketball. That is the second dumbest idea you will ever have. (The first dumbest will involve dropping acid and going to see Aliens, which is a Category Five mistake.)

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I was going to tell you about the time I was reading Libba Bray’s Rebel Angels in a hotel in Belgravia, London, and how we were spending the next day at the Imperial War Museum (housed in the central portion of what was formerly Bethlem Royal Hospital, or “Bedlam”) and how it was all atmospheric and creepy and whatnot (which it totally was) and I was going to tell you about how I dog-eared and sticky-noted The Sweet Far Thing until there were no sticky notes left to stick because I thought (think) it was brilliant and wanted to see if I could connect all the luminous dots and figure out how she’d made it all work.  And I was going to tell you how I spent the night before the ACTs at a New Order concert, which, now that I think about it will make a lot more sense once you read on.

But instead I am going to just point you directly to the interview below because it is EPIC.  I mean, this is not run of the mill epic, it is Libba Bray level EPIC, which means playlists, life lessons, the influence of PBS, aspirations to royalty, Holden Caufield, Gilda Radner, existential crises, blood, make-up, exceptional teachers, music, boys, theater, George Saunders, thoughtful advice, pathological honesty, and–in what is certainly the most epic author-to-author question ever featured in this series–Chris Pratt.  Just go, now.  (You might want something to drink, and a snack, fair warning.)

Thank you, Libba, for this jaw-dropping and utterly exceptional interview, and for your willingness to come face to face with the monster time and time again.

Always Something There to Remind Me

libba-bray-5Please describe your teenage self.

Oh, Lord.

Actually, I feel like that sentence could be the description.

I was a girl of extremes, which I don’t think is terribly uncommon for the teen years: Goofy. Hopeful. Sardonic. Weird. Insecure. Certain I was a freak who would never have a boyfriend. Sometimes melancholy and lonely. An introvert who fronted like an extrovert. Well-intentioned if a bit “high-spirited,” as my high school principal described me that time I got sent home from the Latin trip. A class clown type who was terrified that someone might see how truly vulnerable I was while also wishing someone would see how truly vulnerable I was, preferably a wisecracking, music-playing boy who also read Salinger. I was in love with theater, music, literature, art, fashion, and film. I wanted grand adventures. I wanted to make the world a better, fairer place. I wanted my life to have meaning. And I desperately wanted out of Denton, Texas. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Libba Bray

Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League-Reader’s Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Issues

As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us.  Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.

About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it.  I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation.  He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is.  Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective.  When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read.  If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.

In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image.  I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues.  Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results.  You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash.  You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!

Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League-Reader’s Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Issues

Book Mania Descends on D.C.: The 15th Annual National Book Festival

NBF15-Poster-5.8The sun was high in the sky and the air was remarkably low in humidity as thousands of people begins to fill the downtown streets and converge on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  While many might have left the city for the Labor Day long weekend, others have traveled into the nation’s capital to spend Saturday in an air-conditioned and crowded convention center talking about books.  And as I have for the past five years, I joined the throng and headed down to the Library of Congress‘s 15th Annual National Book Festival.

Note both the snazzy teal tote bag and the growing line in front of the information booth, AKA swag central.

After collecting my trusty guide pamphlet and the all important, traditional Book Festival swag—a large brightly colored tote and at least two copies of the highly collectible poster—I stopped by the Starbucks in the main foyer to arm myself with additional caffeine before trekking back to the Children’s and Teen’s pavilions.

Happily, the Library of Congress documents the multitude of wonderful speakers at this event and makes the recordings available on their website as webcasts.  According, I will refrain from verbatim recaps.  Instead, I will try to offer a sampling of favorite interesting moments from the presentations I attended.

  • Rachel Swaby, author of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World,  shared that one of her largest take-aways from the project was everyone (especially women) must find the space that works for them to pursue their ambitions and dreams–and if such a space does not exist, make it!

Continue reading Book Mania Descends on D.C.: The 15th Annual National Book Festival

Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

shadowshaperMuch of diverse young adult literature is contemporary, realistic fiction, or historical fiction about the struggle of being a person of color.  As a teen library worker, I get to know the personal lives of teens and some of their stories are heartbreaking.  From poverty to bullying, I recognize that the struggle is real and I am happy to be a non-judgemental adult soundboard.  I am also grateful for the plethora of young adult fiction available so that I can hand a book to a teen I feel will provide some insight and comfort.

But when life is tough, many teens also like to escape into fantasy and science fiction. Readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror also like to see themselves in these books.  If people of color can survive slavery and oppression and poverty, they can also survive zombies and maniacal kings and naiyadragons. So, where are the black Hermiones?

I am a teen services specialist and a major part of my job is to connect teens with books.  I have an avid reader, who is Middle Eastern, who asks me to recommend fantasy books about once a month.  A year ago when the We Need Diverse Books movement started, I asked her to do a cue card about why we need diverse books and she stated that she would like to see more Middle Eastern characters in fantasy.   A little over a year later, I gave her The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and she came back and absolutely raved about the book.  She said that she particularly loved the inside cover because there was a girl who looked and dressed like her.  This is one reason why we need diverse books.

If you are a library worker looking to enhance your diverse young adult repertoire or a teen reader looking for yourself in a magical world or a speculative fiction reader seeking something new, here’s a list of speculative young adult fantasy/science fiction titles for you to try.  Please note that some titles feature characters of color in a supporting role—but that’s okay because Hermione was a supporting character, too. Continue reading Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror